Wednesday 30 January 2008 

Harbhajan Ban Overturned Because Of Lack Of Evidence

The decision to overturn Harbhajan Singh's suspension was based solely on a lack of evidence and not influenced by media reports of a veiled threat by India to cancel their tour of Australia, the judge who heard the appeal said.

A day after New Zealand high court judge John Hansen cleared the Indian spinner of racially abusing all-rounder Andrew Symonds, Australia media slammed the International Cricket Council and said the Indian board had held the game to ransom.

The broadsheet Sydney Morning Herald reported the Indian board had chartered a plane to take their players home if the verdict went against Harbhajan while Cricket Australia persuaded their players to drop the charges and agree to a lesser offence.

The paper said Australia's players were privately seething about the turn of events but were left with no option because Cricket Australia feared the prospect of a multi-million dollar lawsuit if the tour was scrapped.

However, Hansen insisted the lack of evidence was the deciding factor.

"Many people reading such media reports could well have thought that they were designed to pressure the Code of Conduct Commissioner into a predetermined result," Hansen said in a 49-page judgement released on Wednesday.

"In the event, the result has been favourable to Mr Singh. But that is as a result of my consideration of the evidence and the law applicable to this case.

"On a personal level I can say that I have not felt under any pressure because of such media reports. In any event, as a judge who has taken the required judicial oath I would never be influenced or succumb to any such pressure - real or imagined."

Harbhajan had been accused of calling Symonds, Australia's only black player, a "monkey" during this month's second test in Sydney.

"I have not been persuaded to the necessary level required that the words were said. I am not sure they were," Hansen wrote in his judgement.

Hansen did charge Harbhajan with the lesser offence of using offensive language, which the Indian pleaded guilty to and was fined, but the judge said he had been provoked by Symonds.

Hansen wrapped up his judgement with a stinging rebuke to the players and officials from both countries, reminding them about their obligations to the spirit of cricket.

"It needs to be said that the greater good of the game is more important than the outcome of any particular match, no matter how important that particular game is to the participants," he wrote.

"Their actions do not reflect well on them or the game."

© Cricket World 2008